Rep. Ed Morse, R-Hayden, a longtime real estate appraiser, introduced legislation today to repeal a section of Idaho state law that says a conservation easement “shall not have an effect” on property values for tax purposes, and values for properties with those easements “shall be computed as if the conservation easement did not exist.” “It’s my opinion that that’s unconstitutional,” Morse said, citing the Idaho Constitution’s requirement that like property should be taxed uniformly.
Morse said a lower-court decision ruled the 1988 provision unconstitutional years ago, but wasn’t appealed. His bill would simply delete it. “It’s simply not an outright, forthright, correct valuation based on the mandate of this statute,” he said.
Under questioning from members of the House Revenue & Taxation Committee, Morse said he didn’t think the change would actually result in big valuation changes, because his experience has shown him that county assessors tend to reclassify such property to lower-value categories to take into account the conservation easements, which can prevent all development. “Assessors recognize that you can’t generally ignore major economic impacts on property,” he said. “That’s why I think the economic impact of this will be very low.” The committee agreed to introduce the bill, clearing the way for a possible hearing.